ISLAMABAD, June 15 (APP): The status of minorities in India – the ‘so-called secular’ country, is a dark chapter written with the tales of persecution, bigotry, and violence that demands serious attention from the global champions of human rights.
Pakistan on the other hand, in clear contrast to India’s maltreatment of minorities, has always kept itself persistent with the policy of promoting interfaith harmony and religious tolerance.
The Constitution of Pakistan, in Article 25 (1), guarantees that “all citizens are equal before the law and are entitled to equal protection of the law.” Also, Article 5 provides that “adequate provision shall be made for the minorities to freely profess and practice their religions and develop their cultures”.
The right granted by the State of Pakistan to minorities to freely practice their religious faith is a shining example of implementing the basic essence of human rights.
The recent issuance of 163 visas by the government of Pakistan to the Sikh pilgrims from India on the eve of the martyrdom day of Guru Arjun Dev Ji has once again established the fact that Pakistan is committed to ensuring religious freedom.
The Sikh pilgrims from India, during their stay in Pakistan until June 17, have been scheduled to visit several Gurdwaras including Panja Sahib, Nankana Sahib, and Kartarpur Sahib.
Manmeet Kaur, a Pakistani Sikh journalist and also a member of the Evacuee Trust Board (ETB), told APP on Thursday that the gesture shown by Pakistan in terms of facilitating the Sikhs to attend their religious ceremonies was a “great initiative”.
She said the ETB and other Pakistani officials always provided facilities to the Sikh pilgrims to freely perform their rituals at Gurdwaras across the country.
Another 20-member Sikh delegation from the United Kingdom, she said, would also join the events marking the martyrdom of Guru Arjun Dev Ji in line with Pakistan’s policy of accommodating minorities.
“Pakistan is a revered land for Sikhs for being the birthplace of Baba Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism,” Kaur said. “As a member of a minority community, I feel myself a free citizen in Pakistan.”
Hardiyal Singh, a Sikh community member in Peshawar told this scribe that Pakistan never imposed restrictions on the Sikh community to mark events as per their religious practices.
He said the provincial government had also allocated an annual development fund for minorities to help them arrange their religious occasions.
Pakistan, from time to time, has expressed serious concerns about the alarming rise in communal violence and hatred directed against Muslims and other minorities in India.
According to the Foreign Office, the minorities in India are being “systematically stigmatized, marginalized and subjected to a well-orchestrated onslaught from radical Hindu mobs with full connivance and support of the security apparatus across various states in India”.
Pakistan has taken several steps to uplift minorities. The opening of the Kartarpur Corridor to facilitate Sikh pilgrims to visit the holy place of Baba Guru Nanak has been welcomed by the community world over.
The government of Pakistan has reserved five percent job quota for minorities in government services and also provides them reserved seats in the Senate, National Assembly, and provincial assemblies so that they are able to convey their standpoint to the national audience.
Contrary to the interfaith approach of Pakistan, India on the other hand is stuck with its reprehensible campaign of ‘saffronization’, which has resulted in the victimization of minorities.
A recent incident, where a renowned Sikh singer Sidhu Moosewala was shot dead in India, is a bitter reality that haunts the image of the so-called secular state.
India’s National Crime Records Bureau reported about 41 percent increase in communal violence since 2014. As per its report, 336 cases of violence involving enmity between groups, races, and religions were reported in 2014 whereas, 2016 recorded 475 cases. The violence has intensified in recent years.
In 2017 alone, 111 people in India were murdered whereas some 2,384 people were injured in 822 communal clashes in comparison in 2016, 86 people lost their lives and around 2,321 were injured in 703 incidents.
As per a report by Open Doors, the incidents targeting Christians increased more than four times from 2014 to 2017. In 2014, there were 147 reported incidents of violence against Christians whereas the first three months of 2018 saw 216 reported incidents.
In 2018 alone, at least 13 people lost lives and 57 people got injured in 31 incidents at the hands of cow vigilante mobs.
India’s Citizenship Amendment Bill passed by its parliament is an ‘anti-Muslim’ law that offers amnesty to non-Muslim illegal immigrants from three neighbouring countries.
Similarly, Sikhs in India have grown up hearing stories of their ancestors, who suffered immense torture and persecution.
This June, Sikhs are also marking the 38th anniversary of the Golden Temple massacre by India, which has once again refreshed their pain.
The Indian military’s action launched on June 2, 1984, at the holiest shrine of Sikhs in Amritsar left a lasting impact on their many generations. The most reliable estimates of the total number of deaths during the Golden Temple massacre range from 5,000 to 7,000 and are remembered by Sikhs as the “darkest time of their history”.
In their quest to rewrite history, Hindu fundamentalists in present-day India are still stoking the fires of communal enmity.
Communal peace in India is on the brink of disaster where the attempts to mix history, religion, and politics is creating an incendiary situation with far-reaching consequences.
The incidents of ‘cow vigilantism’ against Muslims and attacks on mosques in India take place frequently under the supervision of the State.
Also, the Muslims in Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir continue to face religious hatred as the Valley has been put under siege for decades.
Other incidents include discriminatory legislation against Sikh farmers in 2019, the killing of Sikh farmers by a BJP minister without any remorse, opposition of the BJP government to the Kartarpur Corridor, and the attempts to sabotage the project by leveling fake allegations against Pakistan.
The mindset of the incumbent Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) has once again dominated the Indian polity and the establishment has been exposed to act as intolerant and tyrant towards minorities.
This discrimination and violence saw an unprecedented rise under BJP rule with Narendra Modi as its leader.
Inspired by the Hindutva ideology and a trained worker of RSS, Modi’s reign both as the chief minister of Gujarat and the prime minister of India is characterised by the blood of innocent people.
Under the current regime of Modi, minorities in India are subject to multifaceted social issues and discrimination along with physical violence.
According to a report by the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad, a look at the last seven decades after India’s independence shows a number of examples where minorities were targeted ─ be it the Sikh riots of 1984, the demolition of Babri mosque in 1992, incident of burning alive of Australian missionary Graham Stewart Stains and his two minor sons in January 1999 by the mob of Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Gujarat riots of 2002 and the Delhi riots.
It is in the backdrop of this ideology and mindset that hate crimes against minorities have become a norm in Indian society. The mobs of RSS, Shiv Sena, and Bajrang Dal are inflicting the worst forms of abuse on the minorities with impunity.
In comparison with Pakistan’s interfaith approach, the situation in India has exposed the tacit State support to discrimination and ill-treatment against minorities that continue to result in loss of lives and property besides instilling a sense of fear and alienation among the minority communities.